Loss of a Legend

I have found out this afternoon that one of the most inspiring teachers I had, passed away and was buried yesterday. We affectionately refer to people we admire as legends. He was a legend, for me and a whole generation of students/ pupils.

Arriving a couple of weeks late, due to ill health, in my 5 grade (age 11) at the start of secondary school, everyone was terrified by him. I was nervous, yet I became enthralled with him from the word go.

He loved his subject and presented it with both passion and creativity. He wasn’t there just filling time, he was in the classroom to influence lives and inspire pupils. He always created a ‘behind the scenes’ context to every historical narrative. He used visual aids and rad stories that weren’t in the manuals. He knew how to reward those who went digging deeper. And yes, he was strict and demanding, believing that history was a useful tool for life not just academic achievement.

He was a rebel, dressing in black and wearing tight jeans and boots. His hair was longer, betraying his love for rock. In a dull world numbed by communism’s forbidden taboos, it was great to have a different kind of a role model. Intelligent yet irregular. There were plenty of legends and mystique, regarding attacks by some of the belligerent local gangs, wanting to test his martial arts credentials too.

In my final years, excelling at his subject, I became an apprentice I guess, and therefore was introduced to Pink Floyd, Allan Parsons Project and Styx – all part of a rocker’s musical education.
After moving on, I visited him once, and like a true mentor, he treated me with the dignity deserved by a young boy who was slowly becoming a young man. I will never forget the proud look in his eyes.

Unaware, he influenced me in my most formative years of my life. He inspired me as a teacher, communicator and mentor. We both love people and do what we do as a vocation, not as a job.

Thank you Mr. J,

Preaching from the Pad

I have been using the Ipad 2 for the past 20 months or so and found it to be a helpful tool for communication. Here are some lessons I have learned that might help those venturing in the same territory:
Don’t just rely on your Ipad. As it’s a gadget – it can malfunction or fail you at an crucial point. Have a plan B. Either be confident to speak without notes, use your Powerpoint as guide or have a paper back-up.

Have a Bible with you. Yes, you have Bible apps but there is something healthy in the rustling of the pages as well as the sight of God’s word for God’s people. And, if something goes wrong, you still have the text in front of you.

Make sure that it is absolutely silent. Turn off both sound and notifications. It’s obvious that you don’t want constant pings disrupting your audience while you are speaking.

If you have wifi access, you might want to double check it does not interfere with the wireless system in the venue. Turning it off saves battery as well.

Make sure that your Ipad is fully charged. You don’t want surprises. It happens more often than you think and you’re not immune to that.

Check the lighting in the venue and adjust accordingly. You might want to ask someone in the venue (if it is a darker venue) if the pad-glow is distracting.

if you are speaking in a new venue, it is worth checking beforehand regarding the stand. Check if it’s at the right height and suitable for it. This will save you panic-stricken stress when you get there.

Use it as a tool not as an ostentatious hipster trophy. The less noticeable and evident it is the better. The focus should be God and His word.

Make sure that the auto-switch off is off. I had that happen to me a few times and in the moment there was a bit of panic.

Stating the obvious – reads like the silly notices on products that protect companies from lawsuits. They are there for a reason. others made stupid mistakes. Don’t have drinks anywhere near it and don’t leave it lying around.

Summer Small Group Ideas

Usually the summer – i.e. month of August can be an opportunity to take a break and come back hungry and refreshed. In our modern world people take holidays at different times through the year so we need to be flexible about the meeting/diary choice. So here are some suggestions I can make:

If your group is still meeting here are some ideas:
  1. do something different! chose something that suits your demographics/context
  2. take turns to lead on a topic that someone is passionate about
  3. run the group as a book club: either reading a skinny book/month or study a short book in the bible (Ruth, 2 Peter, Philippians)
  4. watch a suitable Christian DVD (Walk Across the Room) and discuss afterwards
  5. take time to have a social
  6. invite a guest to talk about a ministry/mission
  7. invite a guest to tell their ‘life story’
  8. use the month to serve together in a practical way: i.e. spruce up Hunter St.; do hardening for ill people
  9. plan a lunch together after church one Sunday
  10. rotate venues for more variety
If your group is not meeting here are some ideas: 
  1. pray personally every day for 1-2 people in your group
  2. text/email them with an encouragement/bible verse
  3. visit another group(s) that are still going on over the summer
  4. offer your practical services: taking someone shopping, help with garden or DIY
  5. use the time allocated to the small group meeting to catch-up each week with one of your fellow small group members not away on holiday
  6. use the time allocated to the small group meeting to go visit someone who is unwell
  7. do a personal Bible study in the ‘one another’ of the New Testament – Google it
  8. if you’re a current leader/aspiring leader in a small group – why not read a small group book (anything by Donahue/Robinson would do)
  9. offer to babysit for a young couple in the church – giving them an opportunity for a break
  10. use the time allocated to input spiritually into your own family: movie/prayer/reading

Blogging Tips (with ‘L’ plates)

You need to figure out why you blog.
Your motivation will generate interest and will sustain your enthusiasm. Vanity is never a good motivation. Curiosity (can I do this?) – is a pretty good one though.
You need to promote your blog – if you want to share your thoughts with others. Good social media connections will help. You probably need to be intentional as random exposure will not happen.
Keep it short. Love at first sight for me. If it looks long and cluttered – I’m not interested. Break passages down. Keep focused. Do successive posts if need be.
Use clips or images as stand alone post. People interact with concepts in a variety of ways. It’s not just about the words.
Whatever you do – don’t plagiarise or copy/paste someone else’s articles/blogs. Ask permission and acknowledge it.
If you have the time to interact with your readers, allow comments. If not – don’t. Otherwise you can have potential arguments developing that you will need to moderate and that will take time…
Read good bloggers, and keep improving.
Choose a template that is simple – if the text is your main medium. If photography is your tool – you might as well pay and chose a template that is more suited for that.
If you are really talented but undisciplined – try to set yourself a target and stick with it.
If you aren’t that talented – write intuitively (when inspired). Quality not quantity.

Making Yourself Heard: Delivering the Talk

  • Treat this with humility and seriousness – it’s a great privilege & responsibility!
  • Go over the talk making yourself as familiar to it as you can. The more you commit to memory the more comfortable you will feel delivering it.
  • Write notes on an appropriate piece of paper (if you want to keep it in your Bible A5 might be best). You might want to ask for a stand if possible – that will free your hands and allow you to move. You might want to put a Power Point presentation together – just your points; people might remember them better
  • Try to look at people while you talk. Vary the tone/volume of your voice and avoid becoming a statue. Try to avoid mannerisms (i.e. hands in pockets, grabbing the stand, scratching etc) – they tend to distract people…
  • Don’t start in-jokes with the crowd – it can distract the audience and leave you confused. Be careful with humour – better ask someone wiser if it would be appropriate to use…
  • However challenging you need to be – Be always full of compassion!
  • Make sure that the people do not necessarily remember you or your talk/talent but Jesus – mention Him as much as you can!

Making Yourself Heard | Writing

  • Everybody needs to figure out their own style – some write out full notes while others use bullet-pointed systems.
  • Try to start by getting a ‘skeleton’ (scaffolding structure) of your talk; i.e. have a few bullet point ideas.
  • Next step is to try to ‘flesh out’ the skeleton with accompanying explanations of those Bible verses/passage. Keep the Bible and not your ideas central! That’s your authority!
  • Make it practical – show them how the theory works; give examples if you can – bring it ‘down to earth’.
  • In order to illustrate your point you might feel like you want to use quotes or illustrations. These might help some of your audience to connect better with your point or remember it.
  • Work hard at your introduction; you must get people’s attention/interest – like a good movie/drama/stand-up comedy – you need to make them want to hear what you have to say.
  • In conclusion remind them what you said and leave them with something to think and be challenged about! Make it memorable!